Eligibility for military benefits is automatically afforded to military veterans, reservists and service members who are on active duty. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the federal agency that administers benefits programs for veterans and dependents including spouses and children. Those interested in establishing eligibility for benefits are required to apply to the VA to verify eligibility and claim benefits.
Service members on active duty are eligible for military benefits provided that their time in service is sufficient to claim benefits. For example, rules for the Post-9/11 GI Bill require service members to serve at least 90 days of service to qualify for the lowest level of education benefits and at least three years to receive full education benefits from the military. Similarly, active-duty personnel may use the VA home loan guaranty program to buy a home.
Reservists are eligible for military benefits depending on the type of service they have performed. For example, the Reserve GI Bill provides 36 months of monthly financial assistance to help cover the cost of higher education. However, benefits are available only while the reservist is on reserve status. Reservists may claim additional benefits through the Reserve Educational Assistance Program if the reservist is called to active duty after September 11, 2001.
Veterans have the option to claim benefits from the VA after completing time in service. Each benefit program requires a minimum amount of service to qualify. For instance, veterans with at least two years of active-duty service are eligible for a VA home loan. Veterans also have access to GI Bill benefits that provide financial assistance to defray the cost of college education. The amount of GI Bill benefits available to a veteran depends on the length and time period the veteran served in the armed forces. Submitting an application for education benefits to the VA is the first step a veteran must take to determine the precise type and amount of benefit available to her.
Spouses of veterans are afforded benefits in certain circumstances. According to the VA, spouses are allowed to use part or all of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits transferred from a veteran who qualifies for benefits. In addition to education benefits, spouses are entitled to survivor benefits if the veteran passes away during or after military service. For example, the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation program provides monthly financial benefits to widows or widowers of a veteran or service member who dies during or after military service.